The front desk at any practice is key to patient satisfaction and a healthy revenue cycle. Front desk staff not only collects expected copays and previous balances, and updates demographics; they are also the face of your practice because they are the first employees patients encounter. Ensure your patients’ initial experience is positive by following these front desk best practices.
Manage Phone Interruptions
The number one priority of the front desk is welcoming patients as they arrive at your office. Patients should feel like they are important. Patients shouldn’t have to wait while your front desk answers a call, and the person on the phone shouldn’t have to be put on hold while your front desk works with patients arriving at your practice. By removing the distraction of answering phones, front desk staff can focus on greeting patients, updating demographics and insurance policies, and collecting copays or past due balances.
To facilitate this change, use your phone system to route calls appropriately, instead of having your front desk people route the calls for the office. If your front desk answers the phone, make sure they wait for a response before putting the caller on hold. Billing issues should be passed to a biller and discussed in private, not at the front desk.
When you remove the responsibility of answering phones from the front desk, your staff is able to welcome patients as soon as they arrive.
Practice Great Customer Service
When you remove the responsibility of answering phones from the front desk, your staff can welcome patients as soon as they arrive. Front desk staff should greet every patient with a smile and show empathy towards the patient, while remaining firm about collecting expected payments. Your ideal front desk staff should be able to ask for money with a smile and have the patient smile back as they pay their copay and/or balance due.
Verify Patient Demographics
Demographic errors are a top reason insurance claims are rejected, which adds to patient dissatisfaction. Have front desk staff verify demographics at check-in for each visit. If your software supports it, consider using a pre-filled demographics form, paper or electronic, for the patient to review, update, and sign. Insurance eligibility software/websites allow the front desk to verify information before patients arrive so they know which patients to ask for updated insurance information. The front desk should always scan a new insurance card and update the billing system with the correct insurance information. Keep in mind: You may need to train patients to bring their insurance card to every visit. Consider including a reminder in appointment reminder notifications.
Collect Payments Promptly
Not everyone is comfortable asking others for money. If your front desk staff struggles with this, help them to become more comfortable asking patients for copays and outstanding balances through role play. Proper wording is key when asking for payment. For example, asking, “Would you like to pay your copay today?” tells the patient that paying your practice is optional. Instead, make sure your staff sets the expectation that payment is required. For example, they might say, “How will you be paying your copay today? We accept …”
This advice also comes into play for previous balances. For example, if Mary says she cannot pay her $123.45 balance today, your front desk should reply, “How much of the $123.45 will you be paying today?” This sets the expectation that the patient will pay a portion of the balance due. Your front desk staff should also explain to the patient why they have an outstanding balance. Train front desk staff to use notes from the billing staff or review balances in the billing software.
When your front desk does not collect a copay or previous balance, ask them to write down why they did not collect payment. Review these answers daily and determine if your front desk needs help role playing specific situations to make collection easier next time.
Set Goals and Achieve Them
Outline clear goals for your front desk that encourage them to be their best. Here are quality-of-service goals you can use to help them succeed: